BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has called for enactment of laws to penalise political parties which violate the code of conduct during election campaigns.
Speaking during an election organised by the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE) dubbed Zambia’s historic elections, lessons for Zimbabwe, Zec commissioner Qhubani Moyo said there was need to enact laws to punish political parties once they violate the code of conduct of polls.
“We do have a code of conduct currently, but there are no sanctions or enforcement mechanisms, it’s just more of a consensus document where political parties come in and agree that this is what we should not do,” Moyo said.
“It does not go further to say what kind of sanctions should be made should they not stick to that. So, clearly the Zambian situation, which we have also seen happening in Tanzania and some other Sadc (Southern African Development Community) countries where political parties that break the code of conduct will get some sanctions, is something we should take on board.”
Zambia held its elections a fortnight ago where Hakainde Hichilema, who contested as an opposition leader, won convincingly against the incumbent Edgar Lungu. Hichilema was inaugurated as Zambia’s seventh president on Tuesday this week.
Moyo said there was need to register political parties ahead of the 2023 polls if these sanctions were to work.
The need to register political parties was also raised in a compendium of elections observer recommendations by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) as well as recommendations by the Motlanthe Commission of inquiry into the August 1, 2018 civilian killings.
“It is important for the country to have some organic legal definition of what constitutes a political party, maybe by also ensuring that they are registered because currently, we don’t register political parties. You just group yourselves and then write to Zec to say, we are such an organisation and then you are allowed to exist without registration,” Moyo said.
Zimbabwe has had a long history of contested elections characterised by allegations of vote buying, violence and voter intimidation during the election period.
“The code of conduct together with the registration of political parties could come in handy to ensure that we have some bit of sanity in terms of how political parties behave,” he said.
On demands for electoral reforms, Moyo said political parties should enact laws in Parliament rather than expect Zec to lead the process.
“What is desired, in my view, to ensure that we have a stable political environment during elections, is that, a political party must take it as a form of an early exercise that they push for electoral reforms in Parliament so that whatever happens, the commission is there to just implement whatever has been agreed,” he said.
“Parties should not just go to Parliament, fail to change whatever electoral laws they want to and then come here to bash the commission.”
He added: “The job of the commission is clearly spelt in the Constitution and the Electoral Act and as long as we play according to the defined rules of the game, surely the commission should be given the kind of respect that it should have.”